tv PBS News Hour PBS August 12, 2013 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: attorney general eric holder announced sweeping changes to the way the federal justice system handles low-level drug offenders. good evening, i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the "newshour" tonight, holder said his aim is to "punish, deter and rehabilitate," not "to convict, warehouse and forget." we talk to a supporter and a critic of the move. >> ifill: then, russia's recent ban on expressing homosexuality has provoked growing backlash abroad. we examine the continuing controversy. >> woodruff: its eye catching design should withstand a major earthquake, but there have been big concerns over the bolts
holding it together. spencer michels reports on the troubles plaguing san francisco's new bay bridge. >> it's one of the largest infrastructure projects in the nation. but just when it opens to traffic still isn't clear. >> ifill: boston mob boss "whitey" bulger was found guilty of a string of 11 murders and racketeering. how the jury reached its verdict. >> woodruff: and in our continuing look at surveillance and privacy in america. tonight, we explore how law enforcement keeps tabs on our movements by photographing our license plates. >> it's privacy, there's no question about that. you don't get the amount of law enforcement, you get the amount that you can tolerate. none of these technologies come without tradeoffs. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
>> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: the nation's chief law enforcement officer said today it's time to scale back tough prison terms for low-level drug crimes. he announced he's changing the way federal prosecutors go after small-fry offenders. the united states is home to just 5% of all the people on earth, but accounts for more than a quarter of the world's
prison population-- more than 2.2 million people. >> too many americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason. >> woodruff: today, in san francisco, the u.s. attorney general said that number must come down. eric holder addressed the american bar association's annual meeting. >> although incarceration has a significant role to play in our justice system-- widespread incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable. it imposes a significant economic burden-- totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone-- and it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate. as a nation, we are coldly efficient in our incarceration efforts. with an outsized, unnecessarily large prison population, we need to ensure that incarceration is
used to punish, deter, and rehabilitate, not merely to warehouse and forget. >> woodruff: one step toward a solution, according to holder: scale back mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, non- violent drug offenses. there are almost 220,000 prisoners in federal penitentiaries, now: 40% over capacity. nearly half those inmates are serving time for drug-related crimes. holder plans to tell federal prosecutors to change the way they handle those cases. >> they now will be charged with offenses for which the accompanying sentences are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins. >> woodruff: the attorney general wants states to do likewise, given that 225,000 people are serving time in state prisons for drug crimes.
there is longstanding, bi- partisan support for such reform. u.s. senator richard durbin of illinois has introduced the "smarter sentencing act", co- sponsored by fellow democrat patrick leahy of vermont and republican mike lee of utah. kentucky republican rand paul also has a measure to increase judicial discretion. durbin wrote the law that ended a long-standing disparity in drug sentencing that hit minorities hardest; the president signed it in 2010. >> a bipartisan bill to help right a longstanding wrong by narrowing sentencing disparities between those convicted of crack cocaine and powder cocaine. it's the right thing to do. >> woodruff: today, holder also cited the toll such harsh sentences take on some american communities. >> they, and some of the enforcement priorities we have set, have had a destabilizing effect on particular
communities, largely poor and of color. and, applied inappropriately, they are ultimately counterproductive. >> woodruff: holder added that programs to enable compassionate release for older inmates-- and to send drug offenders to rehab, not up the river-- should help trim prison populations. to examine the arguments on each side of the issue, we turn to mary price, vice president and general counsel of families against mandatory minimums, an advocacy group. and william otis, adjunct professor at georgetown law school and former special counsel to president george h.w. bush. welcome to you both to the newshour. mary price, let me start with you. you think these changes are good ideas. why? : absolutely. our criminal justice system has become addicted to solving our social and public safety problems with incarceration. today eric holder said the
department recognizes that and says that we have to step away from using those kinds of policies. we can't incarcerate our way to public safety nor given the inequities, as we pointed out, should we do that. so i think it's significant that what he's saying with more be safer and i think that's very important and something we need. >> woodruff: your argument is that this is less crime? >> our argument is that we're locking up too many of the wrong kind of people for too long for the wrong kinds of crimes. certainly -- i mean people who we are afraid of, people who are committing serious crimes, they ought to be incarcerated. we need to be kept safe. but as you pointed out, half of the people we're incarcerating are in federal prison for drug crimes and a significant portion of them are non-violent and low-level offenders. we cannot continue to spend the amount of our criminal justice dollars on locking up people while the department of justice goes looking for money for real public safety reforms.
if. >> woodruff: william otis, what's your take on these changes. >> i think the attorney general is making some mistakes. your segment started out by pointing out that he says the criminal justice system is ineffective and unsustainable. it is very costly, no one doubts that. any major social program that aims to increase public safety is going to be. the attorney general saying it's ineffective is just not so and painting a misleading picture of what our criminal justice system has done. it omit it is fact that far from being the failure that he portrayed our criminal justice system over the last 20 years has reduced the crime rate by 50%. that's not a picture of a failure, it's a picture of a success. now, it's true that --. >> woodruff: you're saying that's largely due to these mandatory minimum sentences? >> it's due in significant part to the fact that we are incarcerating more people and
incarcerating them for longer. now, it's not due solely to that of course. there are other measures: increasing hiring of police, more effective police force, more effective private security measures also contribute to that. but imprisonment has significantly helped bring about this enormous drop in the crime rate. >> woodruff: mary price, what about that? >> but if there was that kind of link, you would think when mandatory minimums and incars ration policies were adopted that crime would go down and when they were abandoned that crime would go up. in fact, recently the pugh center on the states found the 17 states that deuce red lines on overincarceration, their crime rates also did not go up. so there's not such a direct link and this led conservatives from a group called "right on crime" to say "no, this is not the kind of relationship that we can rely on. in fact, we can reduce incarceration and keep ourselves safe at the same time by using our criminal justice dollars much, much more wisely. >> woodruff: william otis, what
about one of the other arguments the attorney general made that the prison population -- it wasn't the only argument but one of them certainly is that the prison population way, way overcrowded and that this will be a way to keep -- to get minor offenders into alternative programs where they can be rehabilitated. >> i think anyone would want criminals to be rehabilitated and there are programs in prison particularly in federal prison that aim to do that because most criminals, after all, will be back on the street at one point or another. but where i think the attorney general missed the ball was in concentrating on three quarters of 1% of the population in prison but never mentioning the 99% who are not and whose safety has been so significantly improved again, in part, because of increased incarceration. i think another problem that the attorney general --. >> woodruff: let me pick up on that. you're saying that by focusing just on those who are in prison and not on those who didn't get
caught in other words? >> it's that and more than that. the people that have not been crime victims on account of the strong measures that we have taken to prevent crime and bring crime down, those people count, too. that they have not been victims have saved them money and that's money that counts in the public disk as well. >> well, i think that punishment is important in certain cases. what the attorney general is focusing on are not the -- he won't be releasing violent criminals or not charging them appropriately. he's saying we can be smarter about the people we lock up for lengthy periods of time under mandatory minimum sentences. he's the top law enforcementer? the country. his job on the day to day basis is to keep us safe. he would not be taking these measures if he thought doing so would not keep us safe. >> woodruff: one of the other arguments i was reading today-- or points, william otis-- is that the attorney general is not changing the law. the law that requires mandatory
minimum sentences are still on the books. the people in the prison who received those sentences will remain in prison. these are future offenders. so will this have much of an effect at all, is the question? >> i think you make a very good point. the attorney general's remarks today actually, i think, seem to be more than they are. at present federal law contains two safety valves that already offer an opportunity for leniency and for offenders to go below mandatory minimums. one of those has some of the criteria the attorney general outlined today. they allow offenders who otherwise would be subject to mandatory minimums to get out of that if they are not violent, if they still --. >> woodruff: you're saying -- i'm sorry. you're saying the method is already there? or the ability to make it happen? >> it's already there and as a matter of fact it's frequently used in federal courts. >> woodruff: what about this point about this doesn't change the law? it's still on the books.
>> exactly. it doesn't change the law and the safety valve to which bill is refering is terrific. 80,000 people have benefited with shorter sentences over the years. but it's not enough. our prisons are way oversubscribed. we're operating at 140% capacity. what the attorney general is saying is congress, the ball is in your court. he made references to several bipartisan bills that would reduce mandatory minimums or provide larger safety valves to them and he said we're going to take the first step, we're demonstrating what we can do to reduce the reliance on overincarceration and we'll reach out a hand to congress and work with congress. >> woodruff: we'll leave it there for tonight. mary price, william otis. we thank you both. >> thank you so much. >> ifill: you can watch the rest of holder's speech on our website. and still to come on the "newshour": backlash to russia's crackdown on homosexuality; problems plaguing san francisco's bay bridge; convicting whitey bulger and spying on license plates. but first, with the other news of the day. here's kwame holman.
>> holman: a federal judge ruled today new york city police have violated the rights of thousands of people with a "stop-and- frisk" policy. the tactic is allowed based on a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. but the judge said officers stopped mostly black and hispanic men using questionable criteria, so the policy intentionally discriminates based on race. mayor michael bloomberg denied that charge. and he said the policy is a vital deterrent to crime. >> today we have fewer guns, fewer shootings, and fewer homicides. the fact that fewer guns are on the street now shows that our efforts have been successful. and there is just no question that "stop, question, and frisk" has saved countless lives. and we know that most of those lives saved-- based on the statistics-- have been black and hispanic young men. >> holman: bloomberg vowed to appeal. in the meantime, the judge also appointed an independent monitor to oversee substantial reforms
to "stop and frisk." the governor of north carolina signed a sweeping new voting law today. it mandates a photo i.d. for any would be voter and reduces early voting by one week. republicans said it will cut down on fraud, democrats and voting rights groups said the real purpose is to suppress votes by supporters of democrats. nearly all of the u.s. diplomatic posts that were closed by a terror threat, now have reopened. the exception is the u.s. embassy in yemen which remained shuttered today, and officials said it will stay that way indefinitely. in all, 19 diplomatic sites in the middle east and africa shut down last week amid warnings of an al-qaeda plot. egyptian authorities put off plans today to break up two cairo sit-ins by supporters of ousted president mohammed morsi. instead, an almost festive atmosphere prevailed. people marched and chanted slogans, while young men played ping pong and soccer amid drum circles.
the military repeatedly has delayed carrying out its promise to use any means necessary to clear the pro-morsi camp sites. britain is warning it may take legal action against spain, in a growing row over the territory of gibraltar. the rocky outpost sits at the mouth of the mediterranean, and has been ruled by the british for centuries. we have a report from james mates of "independent television news." >> reporter: the helicopter carrier h.m.s. "illustrious" leaves portsmouth heading to the mediterranean, a deployment planned long before this current spat over gibralter, but at least one royal navy vessel will soon be docking in the colony. however routine, symbols of britain's continuing commitment are important. people trying to cross back and forth into spain have enjoyed another trying weekend of long queues at the border prompting london now to threaten legal
action against spain at what it considers a breach of european rules on free movement. the flag flying over the rock may be looking a little tattered these days, but britain insists its legal claims are as impeccable as ever. >> this is the treaty here in the british library signed exactly 300 years ago. it brought an end to the war of the spanish succession and gave britain its claim to gibralter. here it says that the town, the port, and the castle of gibralter is to be enjoyed by britain forever without any exception or impediment whatsoever. >> reporter: but the waters, say spain, were not included which is why they've objected so strongly to the building of an artificial reef. they say that is to thwart spanish fishermen. spain's foreign minister jose garcia is not retreating one inch, now threatening to join argentina in an appeal to the u.n. "that's a possibility" he said. "the other is an appeal to the
international court in the hague." so threats and counterthreats between two supposed e.u. and nato allies with the prospect that, for the first time, international judges will be ruling on this 300-year-old dispute. but at least the parties seem to want a resolution in the courts rather than something much worse. >> holman: if the issue does go to court, a decision could take years. the week got off to a lackluster start on wall street. the dow jones industrial average lost more than five points to close at 15,419. the nasdaq rose nearly ten points to close near 3,670. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: next, we turn to the growing criticism of anti-gay laws in russia. they're generating protests around the world, just as the russians gear up to host next year's winter olympics. >> gay rights in russia, gay rights in russia. >> ifill: the refrains have been similar at demonstrations across europe and the u.s.
>> hey, hey, ho ho! homophobia's got to go! >> ifill: on saturday in london, british comedian stephen fry didn't mince words in describing russian president vladmir putin and his government's new laws. >> there's no argument for homophobia at all. it's just a very convenient way uniting brutal people, neo-nazi people to be your brute squad. and that's what i'm afraid putin is doing and has done, and will continue to do. >> ifill: putin signed a measure in june banning public expression of homosexual identity and affection. supporters said it's to protect the young. >> ( translated ): it outlaws the spreading of information aimed at forming non-traditional sexual attitudes among children, attractiveness of non- traditional sexual relations, a distorted perception of social equality between traditional and non-traditional sexual relations. >> ifill: gay rights activists argue it gives putin's government free rein to suppress speech. >> well, i think that the law is so vaguely formulated that you
can use the law to criminalize every expression of being gay or lesbian. and i think that way you erase the homosexuality out of the minds and out of the street. you make it invisible. >> ifill: another measure prohibits the adoption of children by foreign couples who are gay or lesbian. some opponents of the laws have taken to dumping russian vodka to make their point. others are urging a boycott of the winter olympics, set for february in the russian city of sochi, along the black sea. but so far, there's no sign that appeal is gaining much traction. president obama said friday a boycott hurts the wrong people. >> i do not think it's appropriate to boycott the olympics. we've got a bunch of americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed. >> ifill: in the meantime, the
president of the international olympic committee says he's asked russian officials to clarify how the law banning homosexual expression will be applied during the games. >> the olympic charter is very clear. it says that sport is a human right and it should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation. and the games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, so our position is very clear. >> ifill: the russian ambassador to the u.n., answered thursday, speaking to protesters outside his residence in new york. >> all athletes, i can tell you, are going to be just fine, going to be just fine. but we do expect everybody to respect our laws as well. >> ifill: russian police are already reinforcing that point, arresting protesters opposed to the laws. with me now is miriam lanskoy, director for russia and eurasia at the national endowment for democracy. tell me, how did this come to a med right now? >> there's more than one thing going on.
the law itself is part of a general crackdown. there's been several pieces of legislation, laws, against n.g.o.s, against public protests. >> ifill: non-governmental organizations. >> non-governmental organizations, against different forms of public protests, new restrictions on the internet. it's come to a head because to remain in power and remain the dominant party at all levs putin's government needs to clamp down and it needs to find internal enemies and try to change the subject away from things like transparency or elections or government accountability. >> woodruff: is this a sentiment that runs deeper than the moscow elites or the government? is this something that is speaking to the underlying general feeling within the russian population? >> there's polling that finds -- russian society is very
homophobic still. they find most russians consider homosexuality to be a disease or perversion. it's trying to show it as a kind of type of foreign influence. what putin has done is to try to use -- to try to create a narrative of what is truly russian and to use very primitive nationalist homophobic xenophobic attitudes against critics. >> ifill: does the church play a role in that? >> yes, there was a very famous case of the pussy riot, a punk band that performed a song in a church that was against putin, got three years in jail. subsequent to that, there were laws to protect russian values and russian church. so the -- what is really a
horrible campaign against gay activists and increasing in violence against gays is part of this larger picture. >> ifill: is the debate happening just within russia? we heard the president of the united states speak on it but are other people weighing in internationally on this? >> there have been protests whenever putin goes to europe now, there are protests. there are protests in belgium and netherlands and germany so it's definitely gathering steam. we've seen that with other types of human rights movements when there's a strong movement in europe and the u.s. it starts to express solidarity with other parts of the world. >> ifill: there used to be a law that outright baned gay sex that was appealed in 1993. >> it was a soviet law. >> ifill: it was a soviet law. so why aren't they making progress in some ways? >> they were making progress and for a -- it became possible,
slightly more space, there were underground nightclubs that then became a little bit more open. but overall the society -- if you compare it to five years in prison for homosexuality which was the soviet standard there's been progress. but still, a news anchor was fired for coming out publicly. what you also have which is very important in russia is just heightened activism and a man who found that he couldn't report the news, keep talking about it as though it was happening to someone else, so he came out publicly which is extremely, extremely rare. so there is a new generation that's out there that is trying to speak up more and kind of assert the ability to come out. the. >> ifill: how much would we be paying attention to this in the broader world if it weren't for the olympics and how much of the coming olympics in february is
driving the international debate? >> i think the olympics is an obvious kind of rallying cry for people. i think we would be paying attention to it regardless because there was a terrible killing in may where a man was tortured and killed. there are russian groups that have become better at getting their message out that use social networks and kind of get traction abroad. there's a more confident international gay rights movement. the obama administration has made gay rights a priority and that's something that is from 2011 they asked the state department to start reporting on abuses against l.g.b.t. so there are are a number of different things coming together but the olympics is a focal point for this. >> ifill: is there this a central issue for vladimir putin himself or -- >> yeah, this is his prestige. it's extremely important both in terms of being a leader on the
global stage, in financial terms and it's a point of pride for him. it's extremely important. >> ifill: maryanne lanskoy from the national endowment for democracy. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: one of the nation's largest public works projects is a critical and iconic new bridge spanning san francisco bay. but even as it nears completion, anticipation has been tempered by worries over recently discovered problems along its eastern span, as well as the political and engineering battles that have delayed construction for decades. spencer michels reports. >> reporter: construction may be nearly finished on a new portion of the bay bridge, but concern over broken steel bolts, possible corrosion and long delays have eclipsed any excitement over the upcoming
opening of the new roadway. in 1989, the 6.9 magnitude loma prieta earthquake hit the bay bridge, which had opened in 1936, causing part of the deck to buckle, killing one motorist and disabling for more than a month the span that still carries 270,000 cars a day between san francisco and oakland. it remains the second busiest bridge in the nation. a design for a new span was proposed, fought over, changed and eventually built alongside the old one-- to replace the damaged 2.2 miles that stretch east toward oakland. but it hasn't opened yet, and as state senator mark desaulnier charges, the project is way too expensive, and way overdue. >> they said that they could do this signature span for $1.1 billion. it's now $6.3 billion and it's ten years late.
it's atrocious. on these metaprojects, whether it's the big dig in boston or this project, the people who advocate for the project tend to come in and low ball the price. >> reporter: while cost overruns are a huge issue, desaulnier also says the delays have put the whole bay area at risk. >> the people who i represent pay the tolls that have paid for that negligence. and they've also had their life put at risk by staying on the old bridge. >> reporter: the new span is designed to be much safer than the 75-year-old cantilever section it is replacing, partly malcolm dougherty is director of caltrans-- the california department of transportation. >> it's a bridge that's being built in-between two major earthquake faults. the hayward fault and the san andreas fault. this is an incredible feat to build this bridge and replace that one. this bridge is built for ground motions that are expected over a 1,500 year period. 150-year life which is way above and beyond any other bridge design. >> reporter: steve heminger
directs the metropolitan transportation commission-- one of the lead agencies building the bridge. >> if we have another loma prieta earthquake 60 miles away, it could still damage that old bridge. if we have a loma prieta earthquake nearby, it could drop that bridge into the bay; this bridge would survive both of those with relative ease. it's been nearly a quarter of a century since the bay bridge was damaged, and there's been no major earthquake since then to make matters worse. but one is coming-- geologists warn us-- and that's when we'll find out how the fix holds up. >> reporter: new technologies allowed engineers to design the eye-catching 525-foot tower that supports the roadway below, making the bridge the largest self anchored suspension bridge in the world. but that and other seismic features also came with problems that have cast a shadow over the whole project.
the most recent was the discovery that steel bolts put in place to stabilize the bridge during an earthquake were becoming brittle and cracking due to hydrogen forming near them. fixing the bolts may take months. thomas devine, a professor of material science and engineering at u.c. berkeley, is convinced that the improper use of high strength steel was one of the reasons the bolts cracked. >> if people that are making use of these high strength steels are not sufficiently tuned into the intricacies of high strength steels, then they miss the fact that these steels have their limitations. >> reporter: devine says that the problem should have been foreseen by engineers. >> there are two possibilities. one is that proper engineers were in place, metallurgists were in place, and yet their warnings were ignored.
the other possibility is that the metallurgists were not in place, and that's the reason why we have this particular outcome. >> reporter: bridge builders counter they had metallurgists on staff, and committees reviewing corrosion protection, but somehow the bolts were manufactured incorrectly-- a real problem, says caltrans dougherty. >> the bolts are a very real construction problem. nobody expected 32 of those bolts to break once they were tensioned up in place. >> reporter: berkeley's devine says too few of the bolts have been examined to come up with a proper fix, a charge dismissed by heminger, whose staff insists it has come up with solution. >> those bolts are going to be replaced with a saddle, so that the device that they were going to secure will be just as secure in the future. >> reporter: other problems have plagued the construction project as well. devine says tendons --bundles of high strength wire under tension-- were supposed to be grouted within 30 days to protect them, but were left exposed for 15 months.
he charges that testing has been inadequate. >> during this period of time corrosion has taken place. it's simply not known whether or not these strands sustain stress corrosion cracking, hydrogen assisted cracking. >> reporter: that problem has been resolved say the bridge builders, who chafe at the stream of bad publicity. >> i have to say that most of the criticism that we've heard lately about this bridge, i would call phantom problems. they're not real problems. they're just somebody digging deep enough and finding some irregularity and blowing it out of proportion. >> reporter: he's also critical of the local press, which has covered the bridges woes extensively. >> i have to say lately, i think they've probably been overdoing it, in terms of scaring people so much about the integrity of this structure that folks are forgetting that the bridge we ought to be worried about in terms of safety is not the one
i'm standing on but the one over there. >> reporter: in fact, from all indications, the public is concerned and angry about the delays, and safety. >> i think they should get it right and not open it until its absolutely safe. they need to go back to company and make sure we have 100% safe bolts. >> i think they should open it because i think the current bridge is not a good solution to drive on. >> some of that concern over safety and costs on the bay bridge parallels anxiety about other bridges and roadways across the nation, says caltrans dougherty. >> it's very representative of a lot of infrastructure projects and the transportation needs throughout the country as far as aging infrastructure. >> reporter: but fixing large infrastructure requires good management, and that senator desaulnier says has been lacking. caltrans has taken the brunt of the criticism. >> caltrans is dysfunctional. these are big insular institutions that are not responsive to the public.
when caltrans was dealing with this project by themselves, there was very little oversight; there was very little transparency. we would go for years at a time and not know what was going on, and then there would be this huge cost explosion. >> reporter: as a result, the state legislature formed a three-agency committee to oversee the whole project, and keep it on schedule along the way, higher tolls-- now up to $6 a car-- were adopted to pay for bridge construction. >> ironically most people i think tend to think that the federal government is still the big player in infrastructure in america. it's not, and this bridge is a very good example. this $6 billion bridge has 5% federal money. you're going to be waiting a long time if you're going to be waiting around for uncle sam or the folks in sacramento to bail out our infrastructure problem. >> reporter: still some officials fear the annoyance at cost overruns and delays on the
bay bridge may have doomed public support for other bridges and roads that need attention. and no one is yet certain when the bolts will be fixed, or when the new bridge will open to traffic. it was supposed to be labor day, but it may be closer to christmas. >> ifill: work has now begun to replace the broken bolts with a steel saddle. caltrans says the process will be completed by december 10. >> woodruff: now, the verdict in the trial of mob boss james "whitey" bulger. a jury in federal court found him guilty on more than 30 counts today, including murder, racketeering and extortion, as the head of the notorious winter hill gang. bulger, now 83 years old, was convicted of 11 of 19 murders that prosecutors said he committed or helped orchestrate in boston during the 1970s and '80s.
he spent 16 years on the run, becoming one of the f.b.i.'s most wanted before he was finally captured in june 2011. during his days in boston, bulger also was an f.b.i. informant and the agency's own dark history with the gangster became a big focus of the trial. u.s. attorney carmen ortiz acknowledged that as she praised the verdict. >> this day of reckoning for bulger has been a long time in coming. too long. in fact, due to his decades-long of corruption and corrupting law enforcement officials in this city and it was a corruption that not only allowed him to operate a violent organization in this town, but it also allowed him to slip away when honest law enforcement was closing in. i hope that the victims, the family, and many others who
suffered tremendously and in some cases were actually destroyed by james bulger's criminal actions will take some solace in the fact that he will spend the rest of his life in prison. >> woodruff: carney, said his client would appeal. but he noted that bulger was not convicted of other murder charges made by the prosecution. >> jim bulger was very pleased with how trial went and even pleased by the outcome. i don't think that he expected that nine times the jury would come back and say not guilty or not proven. it was important to him that the government corruption be exposed and important to him that people see first hand the deals that government was able to make with certain people. >> woodruff: to walk us through the verdict, we're joined once again by kevin cullen. he's a columnist from the "boston globe."
welcome back to the newshour, kevin. first of all, tell us about the scene in the newsroom when the jury reported the verdict. >> well, it was pretty obvious that the families -- one thing i saw i could see over whitey's shoulder. i was actually purposefully the other courtroom where the camera was on whitey and i could see the families in back of him. and the donahue family was obviously thrilled, the davis family was crushed. the leonard family was crushed. those murders -- in the davis case, that was one of the woman, he was charged with 19 murders, judy, the only two he objected to were the women because that flew in the face of his phony narrative as this gangster with scupables and he was convicted of the murder of deborah hussy, the stepdaughter of his partner in crime, steve flemmi and the jury came back with a verdict of no finding in the killing of
deborah davis. i heard his lawyer describe he was pleased with the findings. i would say that that is putting the best face on a very bad day for whitey bulger because the jury victimed him of 11 of 19 murders. it was pretty obvious to us in press row that the jury did a very meticulous job and in any murder or any criminal act that he was charged with there was not cobive the evidence they did not convict. so in a lot of the old murders in the '70s that involved gangland murders when it was just john martorano the witness, it was just his word, the jury said "we're not going for that." any time there was anything supported there was a corroborating witness or corroborating event the jury convicted. he was convicted of almost all charges. so, like i said, the defense can spin it as much as they want. whitey bulger is going to die in prison and the idea that he did not kill women, well, i'm sorry, the jury said otherwise. >> woodruff: what was his reaction when the verdicts were read? >> no emotion. no emotion whatsoever.
i looked at his face, that's where my eyes were, right on his face. and he showed no emotions whatsoever if he played it like a poker player. >> explain a little bit more about the difference between the murder counts that he was -- of course there were racketeering, extortion charges as well. but what were the principle differences between the counts he was found guilty on and the ones he was not? >> well, it comes to corroborating evidence. i went through the charges that he was -- they found not proven i only heard one "not guilty" and that was on the extortion of a book maker named kevin hayes. everything i else i heard was not proven, that's a distinction. and in the deborah davis killing that means no finding. that means the jurors were split. some thought there wasn't enough evidence; some thought there was. but if you parse it, judy, what you will see is that whenever it was just the word of john
martorano not supported by either kevin weeks-- a very key witness-- or steve flemmi himself that the jury did not find him guilty of these counts. >> woodruff: and you were saying families of the woman whose murder he was not -- found not guilty of, they were upset. >> well, steve davis and i had lunch together waiting for the verdict and, you know, we talked about it. steve davis is -- actually thinks steve flemmi killed his sister so in some respects he didn't agree with it the way the government presented it per se. but as steve presented it to me, he has no doubt that whitey bulger and steve flemmi conspire to kill his sister. so he was upset by the verdict. as he said to me "at least it wasn't a not guilty, at least it wasn't not proven, they said it was no finding." that means the jurors were split on this. that some obviously believed that bulger wasn't present and involved in the murder and some
felt that the evidence was just -- it did come down to steve flemmi's word, not necessarily against whitey because he didn't take the stand but it was steve flemmi's word and the jury sat there for three to four days listening to how much of a yes general rat steve flemmi is. you have to understand, the buck of the government case were from people who were admitted drug dealers, killers and thugs. the jury has to parse that. from where i sit i think they did a heck of a job. >> woodruff: how much damage was done by the f.b.i. by this trial? bulger's connection to the f.b.i.? >> well, the damage to the f.b.i. is going on for 20 odd years now. i was part of the "boston globe" spotlight team that exposed bulger as an informant in 1998. the damage began then. nine years later juk mark wolf, one of the few heroes in this sordid tale, was able to force the f.b.i. to admit that bulger was their informant. since that time there has been a
series of civil cases and other criminal cases. john connolly, his f.b.i. handler, is now doing 40 years for murder in florida. this was the end, this was the denouement, this was tend of it all whitey going to trial. so we've actually known this. so the damage for the f.b.i. was done, and that's one of the conflicts we saw. the victims' families did not like the way the government presented this case because they believe the government was minimizing f.b.i. and justice department corruption. and that was a tactic. the f.b.i. did not want to -- that was bulger's defense. it was like don't pay attention to me, pay attention to the corrupt f.b.i. agents. as the jury saw through it, judy, the f.b.i. clearly enabled and actually helped whitey bulger kill people but at the end of the day it wasn't the f.b.i. that shot people in the head, buried them shallow graves and removed their teeth for identification purposes, it was whitey bulger. >> woodruff: a remarkable story.
kevin cullen with the "boston globe," thank you. >> thank you, judy. >> ifill: we continue our ongoing look at surveillance and privacy. tonight, who's watching while you drive? jeffrey brown has our look. >> brown: you see them on roadsides, bridges, toll plazas and in the hands of police. more and more these days when americans take to the road in their cars, cameras are in place to photograph and record their license plates. police forces are widely adopting the technology. the date, time, and location of each image is uploaded into a database and can be used for a variety of things from enforcing traffic laws to tracking stolen cars and suspects sought for criminal activity. but these license readers have also raised privacy concerns. we look at the issue now with technology consultant sid hale, formerly a command we are the los angeles sheriff's department
and catherine crump of the a.c.l.u. she wrote a recent study evaluating the program. welcome to both of you. sid hale, let me start with you. you've used this technology a lot. tell us about how these cameras work, who's using them and what are they good for? >> well, they're still in their infancy as far as employment but in the simplest understanding it's just an electronic hot sheet although it saves the data as opposed to a hot sheet which we compare the license plate with against known wanted license plates. >> brown: a hot sheet meaning you have the license plate number? >> right. basically what happens was is for years and years and years-- decades-- we would get a piece of paper at the beginning of the shift that identified vehicles that were wanted for various crimes or for investigation. and then if we came across them throughout the night then we would stop time and ask them and basically finish the investigation.
the automated license plate reader does that same thing only far more efficiently. >> brown: catherine crump, you've looked into the usage of it. what question does it raise for you? >> it depends on how they're used. if they're simply used to scan a vehicle's license plate and he can do see whether that car is wanted for some reason-- perhaps because it's stolen or there's an outstanding arrest warrant for the driver-- the a.c.l.u. doesn't have a problem with that. the problem, though, is that increasingly law enforcement agencies are saving all of the photographs these license plate readers take and not just of individuals who are wanted for a crime but for every single person whose car passes them. and that information is being stored for increasingly long periods of time. our concern is that what's happening is these plate readers are being used to create massive database us of where innocent americans travel and that these databases are being kept -- tracking people stretching back for months and even years.
>> brown: there evidence of actual misuse or this a fear or perspective or possible misuse? >> there is evidence of actual misuse depending on how the plate readers are implemented. so, for instance, the new york police department has reportedly driven license plate readers by mosques in new york city learn about their attendees. in the u.k. have thereby examples of an individual who was at a political protest having his plate added to a hot list because of his participation in those types of events. so license plate readers do pose potential civil liberties risk. >> brown: let me ask sid hale to respond to that. you feel this is effective as a tool for police. tell us how effective it is and respond to this question of the potential and the actual cases of misuse. >> well, it's very effective. where we could run a plate maybe oh, 20 an hour-- and that would really be on the high end-- the
technology allows us to do 1,200 an hour. one of the advantages we have is behavioral profiling. there are certain characteristics that indicate criminal activity. and we have done that for years and years. this does not change anything that we've always had the ability to do, we just the ability of doing it better. >> brown: and what about the allegations of misuse? >> that's oversimplified for the simple reason is is that same argument could be made against the hot sheet. if somebody is going to abuse the system they'll abuse its regardless of how it manifests itself. in this particular case you can do that same exact scenario and put it on a shot sheet, nothing would change except for the technology. >> brown: so you don't find that-- this is not a privacy question for you? it's -- as long as it's used correctly? >> i'll just tell you, it's a privacy issue. there's no question about that. you don't get the amount of law enforcement you can afford, you get the amount you can tolerate.
and that's one of the things that none of these technologies come without tradeoffs. >> brown: ms. crump, go ahead and respond to that. that is the question. is the tradeoffs involved in better law enforcement in? >> you know, in some ways i think that the two of us share some common ground. we both agree that the technology can be quite effective and that there are legitimate uses. but i do think the fact that this technology allows police officers to examine far more license plates than was previously possible makes a difference. we recently issued a report in which we demonstrated by looking at police departments around the country the vast majority of data that these plates collect is about completely innocent people. you're talking about 99.99% of the data collected. and i think that you shouldn't have vast troves of data tracking where innocent people have gone sitting out there for prolonged periods of time. it's one thing if police departments want to hang on to this data for days or weeks but
it shouldn't stretch on for months or years. >> brown: let me ask you both finally and briefly, if you would, are there rules about this? are there safeguards in place or are there ideas that you have? let me start with you, ms. crump about what you would like to see to allow law enforcement to use these things the way you think they should be used but not abused? >> today there are not enough rules in place protecting privacy. one example of that is the fact that there are only five states current they have legislation in place regulating how police department cans use this technology. otherwise, they're wholly unregulated. the report we've issued contains recommendations that we think can serve as the bedrock for good state laws protecting people's privacy and allowing law enforcement to use this. so, for instance, we suggest that law enforcement agencies only use license played readers to check plates against hot lists or where they have a reason to believe a crime has been committed and not to simply troll through these troves of
data looking for evidence of crimes. we also think hot lists need to be updated regularly and that police department should make their policies for use of silence plate readers pub slik that citizens have an opportunity participate in deciding what those policies should be. so those are just some of our recommendations. >> brown: mr. heal, what do you think about the safeguards that are are already in place and what more could be done is >> she responded with about five or six different suggestions. i'll say this. we're in agreement that by and large it's unregulated and without some demonstrable need i would also have privacy concerns. but on the other hand the public are the ultimate arbiters of how much they're willing to put up with. and i'll give you just one example. there is no credit card-- not even a library card-- that is not indexing some database and as a result of that there's a huge amount of information that's being gathered by businesses and your fellow citizens that have nothing to do with criminal activity and are
completely beyond the purview of the u.s. constitution. the biggest problem i think i would have with it is the fact that a license plate is required to drive on the streets and highways of the united states and now you're saying basically that i have to have this silence plate but it's not okay to look at it. i mean, there's a disconnect here. >> brown: all right, we will leave it there but this debate will continue no doubt. sid heal, catherine crump, thank you both very much. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: attorney general eric holder announced sweeping changes to the way the federal courts sentence low-level drug offenders. a federal judge ruled that new york city police have violated the rights of thousands of people with a "stop-and-frisk" policy. and a federal jury in boston convicted james "whitey" bulger on 31 of 32 counts, including murder, racketeering and
extortion when he ran the notorious winter hill gang. >> ifill: online, we kick off our special coverage of the march on washington's 50th anniversary. kwame holman has the details. >> holman: on august 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands traveled to the nation's capital to participate in the "march on washington for jobs and freedom." 50 years later, the importance of the event still is being debated. we hear from four historians who talk about the legacy and impact of the famed demonstration. that's on our homepage. and new jersey voters go to the polls tomorrow to select candidates who will compete for the senate seat left vacant by the late senator frank lautenberg. we have a primaries primer on our politics page. and in this week's "ask larry"-- outliving your life expectancy is a good thing and something to keep in mind when deciding when and how to collect social security. that's on making sense. all that and more is on our website newshour.pbs.org. gwen? >> ifill: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on tuesday, we'll consider the teaching experiment known as common core and how it might re- shape public education. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff.
we'll see you online. and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations.
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